There’s much to admire in Ron Howard’s biopic of the battle between Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), not least both actors’ portrayals of the leads and Howard’s, at times, brilliant action sequences.
Sad to say though there’s a lot that simply doesn’t work.
Act 1 (the set up – early years) has moments of cringeworthy scripting and acting with little that engages (in fact I found myself wishing it was all over).
Act 2 (the action sequences when 1976 is dramatically recreated, race by race) is mostly enthralling and really brings together all that is good about this movie (Bruhl, Hemsworth and Howard’s direction).
Act 3 (the denouement) is a missed opportunity. It’s desperately rushed – despite its two hour length. I suspect an order from the studio to cut the timelength came into play with the consequence that it feels like an afterthought.
What makes Rush worth seeing is the most important aspect of the movie, the bitter rivalry between Lauda and Hunt. Both actors uncannily capture the drivers’ individual personalities but the script by The Queen writer Peter Morgan sometimes leaves them with nowhere to go, at others it dazzles, “You’re the only man that is better looking after skin grafts” quips Hunt to Lauda in Act 3; and Lauda’s repeated statement that a 20% risk of death in each race is all that’s acceptable is used well and resonates.
It’s the supporting actors that lets it down; an unconvincing Murray Walker, an unlikeable Lord Hesketh, Hunt’s wife – all fail to convince. Only Alexandra Maria Lara, as Lauda’s wife, strikes a real chord.
At $38million this is a big budget movie for the UK. Its ambitions are clear to see. Just a shame the whole doesn’t amount to more than the sum of its variable parts.
Want to see a great motor racing movie?
(There’s very few of merit and despite my reservations this one’s definitely among the elite.)